It’s safe to say that the current situation with video game studio Lab Zero Games is not good. Several employees departed last month following recent allegations of abuse and inappropriate comments coming from studio head Mike Zaimont, also known as Mike Z. This left the studio with only a handful of developers, and while there may have been a small glimmer of hope at one point for a potential comeback, those dreams have now been laid to rest. In a twitter post, a former employee of Lab Zero Games Jonathan Kim has stated that the remaining workforce of the studio has been laid off, and as of this writing, without any type of severance payment plan.
FYI Mariel has to do this because last week Mike laid off everyone who didn’t quit LZ, but hasn’t agreed to a severance for them yet. https://t.co/jmnZYlkYPU
— Persona 😎 (@personasama) September 2, 2020
As you can see in the tweet above, Kim’s statement is also paired with a retweet that involves another Lab Zero Games employee, artist Marial Cartwright, who was the Lead Animator of the studio’s most well-known title Skullgirls. Cartwright, who was among those who voluntarily departed last month, was looking to sell some of her physical sketchbooks in order to help raise money for her and her fellow former Lab Zero Games co-workers. Thankfully, she was able to go through the entire stock and raised a ton of money for her co-workers.
According to Kotaku, a board consisting of Lab Zero Games staff asked Zaimont to stand down once the allegations were brought to light. This was already a tense situation made worse due to the fact that Zaimont was also allegedly going to transition the studio from being wholly owned by himself and instead share the equity with the employees. When a deal for this transition could no longer be reached, Zaimont dissolved the board and completely took over the studio and all decision making.
This triggered a serious backlash from within the studio and prompted a massive exodus of employees which took place last month. Also according to Kotaku, this left Lab Zero Games with only 11 employees, including Zaimont. Zaimont himself made a statement with Kotaku where he described the decision to layoff all of the remaining staff. “It is not a decision I made lightly. I personally know how hard it can be to find employment in a poorly performing economy, but we have more debt than cash, and the last thing I would ever do is not pay my hard-working colleagues or our partners for their work. We are exploring all funding options in hopes of bringing those team members back, but right now that’s the reality.”
While Zaimont may have some hope of bringing some of those employees back, it’s more than likely that the majority of those who exited last month will never return. It also doesn’t help that it is still unclear if Zaimont has accepted a type of severance package, although Kotaku states that he has promised health insurance coverage for his former staff at least through the month of September. As we already mentioned, Lab Zero Games is mostly known for its fighting titles Skullgirls and Skullgirls 2nd Encore. Despite the recent layoffs, the IP is actually owned by the studio’s parent company, Autumn Games, who has also created the mobile version of the game. They announced last month that they will continue to support and create new Skullgirls content, which includes the upcoming new fighter Annie of the Stars.